Despair in lust recovery means recognizing that my ways of dealing with addiction are not working. Things have to change. Perhaps we are “willing to go to any length to stay sober,” for the first time or to abandon ourselves to the program and “let go absolutely.” The first step in many of these realizations is despair about the way things are. The second is unconditional surrender.
In a “don’t worry, be happy” culture, we can miss the pivotal truth that sorrow, despair and unhappiness can be a necessary precursor to positive, enduring life-changes. Apparently, the Bible concurs. It is why we have penitential seasons like Lent. Consider this: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” (Ecclesiastes. 7:4) How about, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:9-10.
Admittedly, despair about things over which we have no control can be unhealthy. But, finally recognizing and accepting our true, unhappy situation can lead to positive change. This acceptance can save us from the need to spin our non-sobriety as “I’m not doing so bad,” or “its just porn,” and from similar pronouncements hoping to fend off despair.
When the prodigal son in Luke 15 ended up living with the pigs, Jesus says “he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate.” (Luke 15:16.) Perhaps his hunger for and his final unwillingness to eat pigs food became his bottom. Something happened. Jesus says “But when he came to himself,” things changed. This is what despair can do. It can bring us into our right minds for the first time in a long time.
So as we approach Lent, lets not push despair away as an unwelcome companion. He may bear essential tidings we need to hear. Yes, despair can be our friend, because hope is ushered in after him, a hope that never fades away.